Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade drives to the basket past New...

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade drives to the basket past New York Knicks' Danilo Gallinari, left, during the second half. (April 11, 2010) Credit: AP

Dwyane Wade said all of the appropriately polite things heard from the other stars of this summer's free-agent class: that New York is attractive, that it's all about winning - and that he's quite happy where he is.

"It's crazy to think about it this early, but I think about my legacy, where I want to be when I get done playing," Wade said. "Winning is what you remember, more so than individuals. And I just want to make sure I'm surrounded by guys that have that same mentality."

This came after Wade's 32-point performance as the Heat defeated the Knicks, 111-98, at the Garden last night. The only thing the Knicks could show Wade that he doesn't already have was a packed house (the 28-52 Knicks have played to 98 percent capacity this season; the playoff-bound Heat is at 90).

Wade already knows about Mike D'Antoni and he's certainly heard of Danilo Gallinari, who spent most of the night trying to guard Wade and finished with 19 points despite 5-for-19 shooting from the field.

The win moved the Heat (45-35) into a tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, but Miami hardly is a serious championship contender anymore. That could change this summer if Wade re-signs and the Heat uses the remaining $20-million- plus of salary-cap space, which is even more than the Knicks have, to attract another top-shelf free agent. In fact, the Knicks might have to choose from the Heat leftovers of forwards Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer.

But if Wade were to leave, the belief is that he'd prefer his hometown of Chicago over anywhere else, including New York. The Bulls have Derrick Rose and playoff appearances, along with enough salary-cap space to offer a max contract. The Knicks, with nine straight losing seasons and six years out of the playoffs, have much less to offer outside of the Garden and D'Antoni's player-friendly system. Aside from that, the prevailing notion is that the Knicks have nothing to offer as far as promising talent and a promising future.

"I don't think a lot of people think this, to be honest," Gallinari said. "I don't think a lot of people think the players we have signed under contract are nobody."

Gallinari said he believes this because of what other players say to him. D'Antoni argues that though the cupboard is pretty bare in terms of depth, the cap space puts the Knicks "in a unique position, because we can add four guys . . . Our supporting cast will be a lot better once we add those guys."

"Without mentioning names, which we can't," he said, "but you can take a couple of those [star] players and put them on any team in the league and [that team] would become a contender for the title."

Former Knick Quentin Richardson, a pending free agent with the Heat, believes that is exactly why star players such as Wade and LeBron James won't be motivated to leave their current teams, which, by rule of the collective-bargaining agreement, can offer the most money.

"I don't see them coming," Richardson said. "I think LeBron's situation, his team is competing for a championship . . . And if I'm D-Wade, why would I?"The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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